Meditations on nature and life from award-winning poet and nature writer John Daniel.
“Dryside / I look out and far.” That brief phrase near the start of John Daniel’s new hybrid work of meditative poetry with interspersed prose orients the reader to his setting and his program, for in LIGHTED DISTANCES: FOUR SEASONS ON GOODLOW RIM his vision indeed ranges far beyond his southcentral Oregon locus over an expanse of both landscape and thought. Composed in spare tercets, these poems are pure distillations of experience, most often reflecting on nature and our place in it, a fragile environment made all the more tenuous as Daniel’s documents his own encounter with mortality. He contextualizes the poems through mini-essays touching on big topics — cosmology, geology, evolution, consciousness — all leading him to conclude “The purpose of the cosmos, in some still unconscious way, might be looking out through our own eyes, and the eyes of all the lives of Nature.” And as he looks out, he also looks within: “The dryside seemed an open secret / that might lead me / to me.” This volume records his journey toward greater self-awareness, one on which we are privileged to accompany him, and through which we might find ourselves as well.
“If the cosmos can be a landscape, John Daniel peoples the horizon with winsome enigmas. His book brims with detailed observation and abundant thought by glimpse and glance, by three-line fragments and concise meditations. Thickets of words in prose alternate with spare “dryside” glints to form a mix that feels essential to the book’s cosmic view. Daniel gives readers abundant room for musing, wondering, and the thought required to recalibrate one’s bargain with this life in space and time. Read this and be part of incandescent starlight.” —Kim Stafford, author of Singer Come from Afar
“John Daniel’s writing has always been a North Star. Reading Lighted Distances is refreshing and clarifying, a mighty breath. This precious world still shines, still revives us, and Daniel’s work always guides us back into deeper love for it in some new way.” —Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Voices in the Air & The Tiny Journalist
“John Daniel’s seasonal round of haiku-like poems reminds me of Matsuo Bashō’s great travel record, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. But while Bashō wandered the northern reaches of 17th-century Japan, Daniel hunkers down in Oregon’s remote high desert. Reporting on the doings of the locals—the deer, coyotes, hawks, junipers, aspens, clouds, and occasional humans he shares his days with— he detects a “glint of sentience” everywhere he looks. With prose interludes on cosmology and the origins of consciousness, Lighted Distances reverberates with insight and wonder.” —Charles Goodrich, author of Watering the Rhubarb
John Daniel was born in South Carolina, raised mainly in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and educated at Reed College. He stayed in the greater Pacific Northwest, from the Bay Area north to Southeast Alaska, working as a logger, railroader, mortar man for a mason, rock climbing instructor, and breakfast cook before turning to writing as a last resort. Daniel has taught creative writing-poetry and prose-at Stanford, Ohio State, Saint Mary's College of California, Sweet Briar College, and St. Lawrence University, along with brief stints elsewhere. Poetry editor of Wilderness Magazine for twenty years, he edited Wild Song, the anthology of poems first published there. Through 2022 he was chair of PEN Northwest and administered the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency in the Rogue River Canyon. He now sidelines as a freelance writing coach and editor. Daniel's work has been honored with three Oregon Book Awards, a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, a John Burroughs Nature Essay Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford, a research and writing fellowship at Oregon State University's Center for the Humanities, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. John Daniel lives on a rampant acre of tall Douglas-firs and vicious blackberry thickets in the Coast Range foothills west of Eugene, and spends time every year over the Cascades on the dry side of the state, where LIGHTED DISTANCES found voice. His wife, Marilyn Matheson Daniel, is a retired environmental engineer and active art quilter. The cover image of LIGHTED DISTANCES is excerpted from one of her works.